Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The French Deserter's Grave, Lebanon, Connecticut (Winter 1780-1781)





Photos: (Top) Plaque marking the site of "The French Oven" on Lebanon Green where the fictitious characters of Mistress Prudence Strong of Lebanon and French Private Francois Duplan would meet and talk during the French Winter Encampment of 1780-1781. (Bottom) Lebanon Green looking North. 




The French Deserter's Grave, Lebanon, Connecticut.


The following story was transcribed from a newspaper published in 1879. Written anonymously and originally published in the New York Sun. The story was picked up and published by numerous newspapers across the country, including The Cambria-Freeman from Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, on September 5, 1879; The Recorder-Tribune from Holton, Kansas, on September 18, 1879; Jasper Weekly Courier from Dubois County, Indiana, on September 19, 1879; The Times-Picayune from New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 21, 1879; Daily Alta California and San Francisco Times from California, on October 26, 1879; etc. It is a story surrounding the French deserter who was executed during the French winter encampment of 1780-1781 in Lebanon, Connecticut. 

As a prequel to this story, I included the following four passages which were written within twenty-five years of the stories publication in the New York Sun, all four sources regarded the story as fiction

Deserter Shot. -- While Lauzun's legion of hussars were quartered in Lebanon, in the winter of 1781, some depredations by his troop were committed upon the poultry, pigs, and sheep of the inhabitants, one of the latter being taken from the fold of even good old Parson Williams. When these complaints reached the ears of the duke, in view of the fact that the people of the whole town had vied with each other in extending the most cordial hospitalities and furnishing the most abundant supplies to this whole corps, their chivalrous commander was deeply mortified, and resolved on its summary suppression. A few of the suspected hussars, from fear of consequences, deserted from camp and fled into the country. One of the more prominent of these was soon after recaptured and brought into camp about nightfall. A court-martial was immediately ordered, by which the soldier was tried that same evening, convicted of desertion, and sentenced to be shot, and was shot at sun rise the next morning in the presence of the whole corps, who were ordered out to witness the execution. This summary example effectually ended all further depredations.

It is this legend that an ingenious writer of romance has quite recently seized upon as the foundation of a very fairly written sensational story of love and mystery about this deserter and a mythical Prudence Strong, which was published in the New York Sun and extensively copied by other papers.” 

-History of New London County, Connecticut: With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Duane Hamilton Hurd, J.W. Lewis & Company, 1882, page 489.  

“It was always known as the "War Office," and local tradition as well as written history told the story of the building. Whenever the occasional newspaper correspondent visited Lebanon, the building and its history were made the usually unfortunate victims of his pen. The varied and variously at tired accounts of the building and its surroundings which have appeared in the metropolitan journals would form a little literature on the subject rather more amusing, and sometimes more provoking than accurate. Even romance has hovered about the old building in the story of Mistress Prudence Strong, printed some twenty years ago in the New York Sun, and largely copied by other papers of lesser note. The heroine appears to have been a mythical personage unknown to the town records or the families of Lebanon; while the hero, whose name may or may not be correctly given, was a French soldier, who, for some trifling lapse in duty, was sentenced by a court-martial to be shot as a deserter. The romance tells how Mistress Prudence Strong procured his pardon at the War Office from Rochambeau, how the pardon was entrusted to a sentry for delivery, and delivered too late. A French soldier of Lauzun's legion was certainly shot as a deserter at Lebanon; but beyond this fact, the romance of Mistress Prudence Strong appears to be romance, pure and simple.”

-The Lebanon War Office. The History of the building, and Report of the Celebration at Lebanon, Conn., Flag Day, June 15, 1891, Connecticut Society of Sons of the American Revolution, Hartford, 1891, pages 9-10.

“. . . and where a deserter was shot by order of the Duke. A fairly written story, which appeared in the New York Sun and was widely copied, credits this deserter with keeping tryst until so late an hour that his life was the penalty for being out beyond permission, but alas! History states that he stole a pig and fled to the woods because of the duke’s warning to the regiments that no further depredations among the town folk who so generously provided for them should pass unpunished. How gladly would we fancy him a chivalrous lover, forgetting as he looked in his sweetheart’s eyes that time waited for no man, but “the pretty Prudence” melts into a fictitious heroine by comparison with cold facts, and the French deserter becomes as ignoble a person as “Tom, the piper’s son,” whom we learned to despise so long ago as we pored over the ballads of Mother Goose.”

-Early Lebanon, Mary Clarke Huntington, The Connecticut Quarterly, Volume Two, Number Three, July, August, September 1896, Hartford, Connecticut, page 258.    

“There is another mound called the deserter’s grave, but it is on the village green. An insignificant pile of stones mark the resting place of one of those French hussars who deserted their camp, fearing detection because of their depredations upon the neighboring sheepfolds and poultry yards. Arrested and convicted, this one was shot the following day at sunrise. Feminine pity for the unfortunate man has taken the form of touching romance, according to which this private was a titled French nobleman and absent from camp only because he would tell his love to a pretty Yankee maiden beyond the town limits. His false accusation of desertion may have been the trumped-up charge of a rival. So said the story in the New York Sun, of twenty or more years ago. Alas, for such a delightful explanation, which lacks historic basis!”

-Brother Jonathan and his Home, William Elliot Griffis, New England Magazine, Volume XVII, Number 1, September 1897, Boston, Massachusetts, page 22.  



Grave of French Soldier (1780-1781)
Located on the Colchester Road (Route 207), Lebanon, Connecticut



"Trumbull's War Office.
And the Secret That Mistress Prudence Strong 
Hid There Years Ago.

From the New York Sun.

The old War Office in Lebanon, Ct., of Gov. Trumbull — Washington's Brother Jonathan — has lately received a new roof. This means that the little building which sheltered Washington, Rochambeau and Lafayette, which was the meeting-place of the Council of Safety, and the halting place of the messengers who bore important despatches between Philadelphia and Boston, is not yet to be torn down. It also means that the mysterious document which Prudence Strong once hid there, in defiance of Gov. Trumbull and Count de Rochambeau, will still longer remain in its hiding-place -- for years ago, even before Gov. Trumbull was gathered to his fathers, the villagers said that the papers would never be found until the building was taken down, and every rafter and every crevice between the stones of the large chimney were examined.

Before I tell the tradition that has been handed down, and of which still the older towns-people say, with the manner of persons who know, that there is a great secret hidden in the walls of the War Office -- a secret that has been buried there a hundred years -- a word or two ought to be written about the War Office itself. It was sadly slighted during the Centennial year, yet there is probably no building standing, save only Independence Hall, that sheltered at one time or another so many of the heroes of the Revolution as did this little gable-roofed structure on Lebanon Green. This is not a matter of tradition, but is fully authenticated by papers and letters which were collected by the late Judge Larned Hebard. Here were written the letters and hence came the suggestions to the Commander-in-chief from Gov. Trumbull which were so practical and bubbling over with good sense as to cause Washington always to speak of the Governor as Brother Jonathan, a name that in time became generic, and even now is applied to the "Universal Yankee Nation." Here always, when not called away, was the Governor to be found. Rochambeau made it his nominal headquarters when in Winter quarters in Lebanon with his battalion. Gov. Trumbull's War Office was as well known by common repute to every Revolutionary soldier as was Independence Hall. It stands to-day just as it then did, and barring the new roof, looks as it did then, and the surroundings are almost identical — an advantage that it has over Independence Hall. The Hon. Samuel J. Tilden, while visiting Lebanon a few years ago, evinced the greatest interest in the building. He said to Judge Hebard that it was a relic of the Revolution that ought to be preserved, and suggested that it be made the depository of mementoes of that war.

From the papers and letters that Judge Hebard collected, many of them coming into his hands when settling an estate of the husband of one of Gov. Trumbull's daughters, from the information that Judge Hebard gained from members of the Trumbull family whom he knew, and from various other sources, the story of the secret of Prudence Strong -- a secret which it is firmly believed would have been exposed had the office been torn down -- is gathered. The Count de Rochambeau, with his battalion of allies, in the Winter of 1780 rested in Lebanon. The soldiers pitched their tents and built their huts on the slope of a hill, at the bottom of which ran a stream of water to the mill pond. Stream and pond and sloping hillside have not been changed since then by either nature or art.

The Count de Rochambeau sat eating his dinner of succotash and a juicy piece of beef one stormy afternoon. He had just received a despatch from Washington which pleased him greatly, and had sent a messenger to notify Gov. Trumbull that the Count de Rochambeau would do himself the honor of passing an hour or so of the evening with the Governor at the War Office. An unusual bustle in the camp attracted Rochambeau's attention. "What does this mean? Those fellows are unusually noisy to-night." he said to an aid-de-camp who dined with him.
"If I mistake not, the sentries have captured a deserter," said the aid, rising and going to the window. He stood there peering through the glass, which was so imperfect as to make big men look very little and small men seem very large, besides frequently gracing one's body with four or even six pairs of legs.
"It is as I mistrusted, sir. They have caught deserter, and, if my eyes do not deceive me, it is Francois Duplan."
"No, not he," the Count said, rising. "Why, he is a gentleman. He cannot conceal that even from you, if he is a common soldier. He has the air of a grand mystery, and he is withal exceeding serviceable at the oven."
"It is he, nevertheless, sir, and you will pardon me if I recall to your memory the order that was issued by the Count de Rochambeau when the deserter was captured the other day and forgiven." "Death at the next sunrise," said the Count, sinking into his chair.
"Death at the next sunrise," said the aid, quietly. "Methinks, had I known that this fellow would be the next, I would have waited until the next after him, for there is something about him that passes my comprehension greatly."
"You will--"
"No, I will not. The order was given, it must be followed. See that I am not wakened until after the sentence is excuted." A Court-martial was speedly convened, and Francois Duplan stood before it charged with having been captured by the pickets far beyond bounds, and making as if it were his intention to pass through the north woods, out upon the Hartford turnpike.
"I cannot deny this," he said, "but I affirm that it was my intention to return before roll-call, and at once admit that I had disobeyed the rules."
"That is an apology easily framed after capture," suggested the Judge Advocate; "but if you say what your purpose was in thus going beyond the lines, if it seem to us good and consistent with your return, it may make the difference between life and death with you, Francois Duplan."
"Alas! I cannot tell my purpose. I can say that it was a good one; that had it been accomplished resuls of much concern to me and to another -- yes, many others— might have come of it. As it is unaccomplished, my purpose would be laughed at, and another made an object of ridicule "
"That must be a singular purpose, indeed, which you would prefer to lose your life rather than part with."
"If it must be so, then it must. I hoped to lose my life when I came to America, but not thus. However, what difference is it?"
They found him guilty, and sentenced him to death. He was to be shot by six of his comrades at the next sunrise. Yet they pitied him. He was, by all accounts, a tall, handsome, brave fellow -- a soldier whose ease of manner and whose habits indicated that his early life was passed in circles with which none of his companions were familiar. He was a stranger to them when he joined them, and it had not escaped notice that the Count de Rochambeau with his ever-observant eye, had marked this common soldier, Francois, and had even once said in the hearing of the sentry who paced in front of the door, "I mean to find out why this gentleman serves as a common soldier and who he is."
With all his reserve and hours of meditation Francois was a favorite with his comrades, for while they felt that he was above them in refinement, in polish and experience, they knew that he made no effort to have them feel thus, but rather endeavored to repress all trials and emotions not shared in common by a private soldier. He could not repress all. There was a method, a way, a mannerism, of which he was unconscious. He had nursed the sick, done double duty to save some tired-out comrade, and, here was gloom throughout the camp when it went forth that comrade Duplan was to be shot at sunrise. They went by twos and threes and scores to the Count de Rochambeau to beg for mercy, and they returned heavy-hearted, not getting what they sought.
Duplan himself, so it was afterward said, was the most composed and seemingly least troubled soldier in the camp. To his guard he said but little. Once when the guard, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, said: "Too bad! too bad!" Duplan replied: "It is well." And then he added: "I have lived these five years in the shadow of death. To-day, yesterday, for a few weeks, I have seen a little ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds.
I knew to-day, when I stepped over the line, that, ere I returned, either the sun would once more shine for me, or that night would come forever."
"That seems to be the strange part of it all. There is not a soldier in the camp who thinks you intended to desert."
"Nor did I. Had I succeeded I should have returned, welcomed by the Count de Rochambeau, and not as Francois Duplan."
"Then you are not serving under your right name?"
"No, I once had -- knew a servant of that name." Later in the evening the Count de Rochambeau's aid brought a message to the sergeant in command. It was to the effect that any requests of Francois Duplan consistent with the execution of the sentence were to be granted. Food, writing materials, companions for the night, the choice of comrades who were to execute the sentence -- any wishes he might have were to be strictly carried out. Duplan at first said that he had none; but suddenly, with an air of great earnestness, and yet timidly, he asked if a comrade might be detailed to escort from the village and home again one whom he would like to see.
"And who is this one?"
"Mistress Prudence Strong."
The aid looked at Duplan curiously for an instant.
"And why do you wish to see Mistress Prudence Strong on such a night as this?" he asked.
"Did the Count de Rochambeau instruct you that I must give the reasons for any wish I might desire granted? "was Duplan's answer. The aid smiled significantly, but Duplan did not see that.
"Let it be then as he wishes," said the aid to the sergeant. A soldier was detailed to go up into the village and escort Mistress Prudence to the camp. "Per-adventure she will not come," he said to his comrades as he buttoned his great coat about him; "and yet I think she will. Have you not seen her at the oven when Duplan and the rest of us were baking bread? Did she not visit us one evening with some of the other maids, and bring us cider and apples?"
As the soldier passed the guard-house, Duplan called him. "I pray you," said the prisoner, "not to reveal to Mistress Prudence my troubles. It is my last request to you, comrade." Half an hour later the soldier returned. The flicker of the lantern that he carried revealed, as they passed the sentry, a slender female form, enwrapped from head to foot with a cloak. She preceded her escort a few steps. The snow was beginning to fall. Some of the flakes fell upon the tresses of her hair that escaped from the top of her hood where it encircled the face. She was shown the guard-house. Duplan, standing, received her, waving his hand slightly, as if to warn her against any undue emotion. The guard, with a delicacy for which Duplan subsequently thanked him, turned his back to them, and paced slowly before the door. He heard voices. He did not hear, nor try to, what was said. He heard sobs, also. At the end of half an hour Duplan said distinctly, "Now, go. You will come to see me in the morning at the oven, will you not?" And then the guard knew that he had not told her what his sentence was, and that she did not know that she never would hear him speak again. As she quitted the guard-house he put some papers that he took from his breast into her hand. "Will you go with me to the War Office?" she said to her escort, "and wait there until I have seen Mr. Trumbull? Then when we get to my father's house my father will make for you a hot punch, I'll warrant. Yes, I know the punch will be all ready, because Mr. Budd, our minister, is in the kitchen this evening with father, and they always take a warm one together."
The snow as they passed to the highway, began to fall so thickly that even the light of the lantern was dimmed, but at this Mistress Prudence laughed, and the comrade who was acting as her escort thought her an extremely fearless girl, and wonderfully handsome withal. The walk to the War Office was a short one. Within ten minutes they were at the door.
"Halt!" said the sentinel, and he was so muffled up that it was the tone rather than the articulation that checked Mistress Prudence, who would otherwise have opened the door and gone in unannounced.
"Oh, oh! It is you, is it Prudence, and what do you here on such a night as this?" the sentinel said, after peering into the maiden's face.
"I would see Mr. Trumbull; truly I desire over much to speak to him. Will you admit me?"
The sentinel tapped at the door. It was opened. A ruddy glow burst from within, and by it two despatch-bearers could be seen sitting on the counter— for before the war the office was a country shop -- driving their spurs into the wood work as their legs dangled a foot or more from the floor. (The marks of the spurs of these and other messengers are to be seen in the woodwork even this day.) Mistress Prudence and her escort passed into this room. The despatch-bearers, who were evidently in the midst of some rollicking story, and were plainly feeling the merrier for the mulled cider they had taken, eyed the female figure curiously at first; but when she threw her cloak and hood off, and they saw the large gray eyes, now seeming very dark by the firelight, and that her features were exceedingly fair and her manner gracious, they thought for certain that they were in the presence of one of the Governor's daughters, and became at once greatly courteous. One took her cloak and shook the snow from it, then put it before the fire. The other opened the door to the room in the rear, where he knew the Governor was passing an hour with the Count de Rochambeau. Thus unannounced, Mistress Prudence came into the Governor's presence. He sat at his oaken desk, but seemed for the moment to be more occupied over a certain discussion that he was having with Rochambeau than with his papers. The French nobleman stood easily before the fire-place, the flames from the burning log burnishing the gilt of his scabbard.
The Governor arose and the Count bowed. Both were exceedingly tall, and Mistress Prudence seemed by contrast wofully small, but not less fearless than the men she confronted.
"Why, Mistress Prudence, what has brought you here? Do you come from your worthy father, the Esquire?"
"Ahem!" this in the slighest and yet most suggestive of tones from the Count.
"Pardon me," said the Governor. "Let me, I beg, present Mistress Prudence Strong to the Count de Rochambeau. A worthy daughter of an exceeding worthy father, sir."
"Truly, that would almost go without the saying of it, your Excellency." And the Count with much grace took Mistress Prudence's brown but shapely hand and bent over it. "Did I not have the pleasure of leading the maid at the reel in the tavern dining-room?" he asked.
"Indeed you did, sir," replied Mistress Prudence, curtsying. "But, Mr. Trumbull, will you tell me what Mr. Duplan, the tall French soldier, has done, and what is to be his punishment?"
The Governor, who had taken advantage of the colloquy between the maid and the Count to draw on his outer garment of plain brown homespun — for the room was sultry and he had removed it turned with a look of surprise.
"I know nothing of any French soldier, Mistress Prudence, and, prithee, why should you visit me on such a night as this for such a matter?" he said.
"Because he is a good man and a brave soldier, and because he has done nothing to merit punishment."
"But why does Mistress Prudence become his intercessor, eh? What does the maid mean, for I see that she is greatly exercised, and I know her to be not disturbed by trifles."
The Count de Rochambeau was very grave. He looked at the maid strangely but not suspiciously. At length he said: "He is a deserter; there is much of mystery about him, but of all the mysteries there is none so very strange as this that has now come to my ears. Tell me," and he took the girl's hand. "what reason is there that you should thus intercede?"
"I cannot tell you that now, sir." replied the mistress, a little demurely, "it is a good one."
Here the Count de Rochambeau looked very grave, but the Governor at once said; "I'd plight my honor, sir, the girl tells the truth. Tell me, Mistress Prudence, how you came o know this soldier?"
"I have often seen him at the oven over there, and in passing have chatted with him, as have other maidens, for he speaks the English tongue as well as you or I."
"Was that entirely seemly?" said the Count gravely.
Mistress Prudence looked at the tall, gracious Frenchman wonderingly for an instant, and then, slowly and instinctively catching his meaning, said, while her gray eyes sparkled and the blood mounted to her cheeks: "There are none but brave and true women in Lebanon, sir."
The Count bowed low, with his hand over his heart, and humbly begged the maid's forgiveness.
"At the oven, you say," continued the Governor; "surely there could be no harm in that, for is not the oven on the common, in rear of the meeting house?" The brick oven still remains on the common, sadly broken in and gone to decay, but there, nevertheless.
"I came to ask you to cause him to be released, on my word that he has done nothing wrong. It is unseemly to shut such a man up as a prisoner for the space of one hour."
The Governor and the Count exchanged glances, and the quick eye of Mistress Prudence saw it. With the most dignified courtesy to the Count she turned her back upon him, and, going to the Governor, said: "Mr. Trumbull, you knew me when I was a child, before this war. Did you not see me lead the other maids to the school-house, when the messenger from Lexington to Norwich stopped to tell us that blood had been shed, and did I not suggest to the maids that we even take our petticoats to make the implements of war with? Do you remember my ride to Hartford, alone through the forests, that I might carry to you the special despatches that were waiting for you here from Gen. Washington?"
"In truth I remember all this, and to your credit "
"Then have I not the right to ask a slight favor?"
"But, Mistress Prudence, I cannot do what you would seek. My authority extends not to the battalion of the Count de Rochambeau."
"But you can plead with him."
"I see, Mistress Prudence, you little comprehend these matters, and in truth I wot my pleadings would not avail the half yours would."
The Count listened gravely to all this. Suddenly he said, but with infinite respect, "Tell me, do you love this man?"
"What has that to do with it?" she answered, straightening up, and her gray eyes flashed indignation. "If he deserves punishment I might love him and still suffer him to be punished. But he does not. I beg you to release him, for he has done nothing wrong."
The Count de Rochambeau said nothing.
"Will you not release him?" she pleaded tenderly, placing her hand on the Count de Rochambeau's arm. He turned his face away, but shook his head.
"Will you not beg for me?" This to the Governor, who stood with one hand on his oaken desk and looking very stern, as much as to say, "I like this not at all."
"I cannot, Mistress Prudence."
"I know not what his punishment may be. It is a disgrace to have been arrested. But I have here"
and she suddenly drew from the folds of her dress a thin packet of paper — "that which he gave me tonight, saying that were he punished I might deliver them to Count de Rochambeau. They are of great importance, sir, for they not only tell who Francois Duplan is, but certain other hints of value."
"Let me see them, child," said the Count, starting forward.
"Not till you promise, and I will tell you, furthermore, that on your written order for his release I will kiss you as I might my father."
"Verily," said the Count, "these are but other words, the meaning of which is the affirmative answer to the question I put to you. Then you do love the soldier?"
"That is impudence, sir. I have not said so. Mayhap in your country, women can do nothing unless the motive of love be imputed. It is not so here, as Mr. Trumbull well knows."
"You are a brave maid," said the Count de Rochambeau, "and you shall have your wish. Now let me have the papers."
With this Mistress Prudence rushed from the room, the Governor and Count staring at each other in amazement. Presently she returned, looking demure, sly and wondrous pretty.
"I have put the papers where they are safe, sir. To-morrow, when I see Mr. Duplan and he tells me that he is relieved from duress and disgrace, I will place them in your hands."
The Count flushed; he bit his lips and at length said; "Then, Mistress Prudence dare not trust to my honor?"
"Yes, yes," she said, going to him prettily; "but methinks I will punish you for your impertinence, sir. You seek the papers greatly, and you must restrain your curiosity over night as a punishment for the question you put to me. Nevertheless, I will partially requite you," and with that when he bent over she kissed him on his forehead.
Then the Count sat at the Governor's desk and wrote an order pardoning Francois Duplan, or rather dismissing the charge of desertion as unfounded, thereby quieting his conscience regarding the peremptory order of death to deserters and gratifying his wishes.
"Give this," he said, "to your escort and charge him to deliver it to the sergeant on his return to the camp. When she went away neither the Governor nor the Count proposed to make any search for the papers. The despatch bearers, in response to the Governor's inquiry, said that the maiden went up among the rafters.
Comrade Jacques showed Mistress Prudence to her father's door by the light of his lantern, and, nothing loth, went in. The mistress herself mixed him a punch of tremendous strength, which he drank in her honor. Then Squire Strong insisted on another, and the Minister suggested that they drink to the cause, so that by the time comrade Jacques was ready to go back to the camp he must have had more than a pint of Medford rum to warm him. The cold night air from without and the heated rum from within sent his brain at once into a whirl, and an hour after the sentinel took him to his tent in a state of the wildest intoxication, in which he constantly sang the praises of Mistress Prudence. They found on him at noon the next day the Count de Rochambeau's remission of the sentence of death.
At sunrise the Sergeant and six weeping comrades, drawn by lot, led Duplan through the snow, across the highway, nearly opposite the old mill. He knelt in the snow on the bank, and begged them to stand not more than five paces away. He calmly repeated a prayer, and then turning to his comrades, said in a clear voice, "aim at my heart," and dropped the handkerchief. He fell over in the snow, and by noon was buried where he fell. His comrades took from a stone wall a dozen or more boulders and placed them in a pile over the grave. (The little heap may be seen to this day.) At noon, as the sun came out, Mrs. Prudence appeared at the oven on the green. She asked for Mr. Duplan, and the Frenchman smiled and pointed to the earth. Even then she did not understand. Looking across the common she saw the Count de Rochambeau entering the War Office, and to him she at once went.
"Where is Mr. Duplan?"
"In his grave, Mrs. Prudence."
She paled, but did not faint. She stood like a rock, she saw that the Count de Rochambeau was not jesting. The Count himself looked sadly at her, and was about to tell her of the drunken Jacques, made drunk by the mistress's own attentions, but she stopped him. "You are a murderer," she said. "You have killed a brave and innocent man without cause. You have killed me. You trifled with me last night. You care for women only to play with their feelings. I hate you and all yours. Oh, why, why did you kill him, sir? He was a good man and a noble man. Oh! you are all the servants of Satan. War. Is this war? Then I hate it. Better had there been no war. Yes, better have been slaves of the throne.
But I tell you, sir, you will never know whom you murdered. If the constant thought that you may have killed one equally gentle with yourself may be a punishment, I hope that it will ever rankle in your breast. I have concealed the papers. He asked me to keep them forever in case he was not released. They are safely hidden. You will not find them unless you pull the Governor's office down; perhaps not then; and it will not come down while you are alive!"
Then she fainted, and an hour after they carried her home in a delirium.
In the Spring, when the snow was gone, they found a flower or two planted around the boulders over Duplan's grave. No one ever saw any person plant them. But everyone knew that Mistress Prudence had been there. Before the next Spring she was laid away in the old cemetery, near the Trumbull tomb, (you may see the slab over the grave to this day), and she never revealed the mystery. Search was often made for the papers without success, but there is no one who has heard the story who does not believe they are hidden in the War Office.

It is said that Count de Rochambeau subsequently learned who Francois Duplan was, and that he was of gentle blood."


-Daily Alta California and San Francisco Times, Sunday October 26, 1879, Page 4.



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